Of almost all the concepts Isaac mentions I found the Self-replicating Machine episode the most tantalising. Can we actually make one?
And it got me thinking, how do you create Mega-Structures, space colonies, mass-produced mirrors or spacescrapers? You need to create a machine to build it for you, but not just any machine: a machine that makes the machine to make it for you.
Or a machine that makes the machine that then makes another in order to make a machine to make it for you. (You get the picture)
So this thread I thought we could jot down ideas on the challenges involved, and any solutions you can think of. For instance I would imagine the following problems, just starting with the basics using today's technology:
- how do you make a machine that makes another one? A 3D printer is the only solution I can think of at the moment. It is conceivable to print one using another.
- however complexity in current 3D printers is rudimentary. They use single pre-made materials and are assembled by hand. We need one that can be printed simply.
- and printing electronics is really hard, so your machine cannot 'think' unless it's possible. In order to print electronics you need materials that need mining and refinement processes that are hard to create and difficult to assemble. So perhaps you have a 'brain' like a central computer, that is manufactured using current-day methods, that 'transmits' instructions simply to 3D printed modules. These modules don't need to think then, they just move and perform tasks.
- they need power. However this could be centralised as well similar to electronics.
- The modules can assemble more modules using an easily workable material - what material I am not sure of, but it needs to be commonly found, easily configurable using only basic gathering and simple bonding techniques. Any material needed can be gathered by gathering modules, heated by heating modules, crushed by crushing modules, all of which must be able to made by the original material.
Which then presents the first question and wall to the concept - what material can be used for the above purpose? Does anyone have any ideas? Also feel free to post other challenges/solutions you could think of too.